Growth is good: BNSF’s enduring commitment to our customers

Highlighting our commitment to safety, service, innovation, people, communities and our heritage.

Jan 23, 2024

Read Time
6 mins.

Growth is good: BNSF’s enduring commitment to our customers

As another year begins, BNSF Railway continues to grow. In 2023, we devoted over $700 million to expansion and efficiency projects. From completing a six-mile segment of double track in south-central Kansas along our Southern Transcon route and beginning a multi-year expansion project at our intermodal facility in Stockton, California, BNSF is committed to growth.

BNSF has continuously grown since unleashing the potential of the combined Burlington Northern and Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railways in 1995. We have steadily expanded our network, increased our fleet, offered new services, built new facilities, and more. Growth has always been an essential part of our vision to serve our customers.  

“We are always acting upon growth opportunities," BNSF Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Bobb noted. “I think how we approach growth matters – our focus is on helping our customers grow their business and on connecting more customers to BNSF’s network. We keep this approach across time regardless of economic cycles.”  

At BNSF, we are committed to having the capacity, the equipment, and the people that allow us to grow with our customers and say “yes” to new business opportunities.  

Our ongoing commitment to growth 

You can see a detailed picture of how we’ve grown our network, our capital investments, our services, our facilities, our fleet, our workforce, and more – from our formation to our future plans – on our new Growth Timeline.

Our new Growth Timeline is ready to be explored.
Our new Growth Timeline is ready to be explored.

But if you don’t have time to dive into all the details just now, here are a few figures that point to how BNSF has always shown a concerted bias for growth. 

  • Since 1996, BNSF has made over $85 billion in capital investments. 
  • From 2018-2022, we have devoted over $2.4 billion dollars in investments focused on the expansion of our network and increasing the overall capacity of our tracks. This was done by adding double track, sidings and extending sidings. 
  • Since BNSF was formed, we have added nearly 3 million units to our railroad while the rest of the North American rail industry has remained flat. Consider this chart showing how our volumes have increased significantly compared to the rest of the U.S. rail industry:
U.S. Rail Volume – Source AAR
U.S. Rail Volume – Source AAR

As these numbers indicate, growth is what BNSF is all about and always has been. 

Speaking of growth 

Again, for a fuller picture of our many growth initiatives over the years, check out our Growth Timeline. 

But while we’re on the topic, we thought we’d check in with some of the key people overseeing BNSF’s current ongoing growth. We spoke with a selection of group vice presidents and asked them two simple questions: 

What’s one way BNSF has shown its commitment to growth in your area historically? 

What’s one way BNSF is showing this same commitment for the future? 

Here’s what we heard from our GVPs. 

Consumer Products 

On the topic of BNSF’s historic commitment to growth, Tom Williams, BNSF group vice president, Consumer Products, said, “BNSF has always been an innovator in intermodal solutions. Back in 1993, we pioneered the logistics park concept with our intermodal facility in north Fort Worth at Alliance, Texas. BNSF Logistics Parks increase access to our rail network. And every one on our system has expanded every year since opening.” 

After Alliance, BNSF continued growing our Logistics Parks network, with Logistics Park Chicago opening in 2002 and Logistics Park Kansas City in 2013. 

Logistics Park Chicago
Logistics Park Chicago
Logistics Park Kansas City
Logistics Park Kansas City

And what about the future? 

“We are extremely excited about the development of the Barstow International Gateway,” Williams continued, “and all the ways it will enable more efficient transfer of cargo directly between ships and rail on the West Coast while maximizing rail and distribution efficiency regionally and across the U.S. supply chain.” 

Some more BIG points about the upcoming Barstow International Gateway (BIG): 

  • $1.5B state-of-the-art master-planned rail facility 
  • 130 miles from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach 
  • Largest such facility in North America at 4,500+ acres 
  • Fully integrated rail and transload for a streamlined supply chain 
  • Significant land for on-site warehouse development 
  • Improves fluidity by moving containers off the ports more quickly 

Learn more about BIG here.

BNSF has BIG plans for Barstow International Gateway.
BNSF has BIG plans for Barstow International Gateway.

Agricultural Products 

Angela Caddell, BNSF group vice president, Agricultural Products, had this to say about the railway’s historic growth commitment:  

“To meet the expanding capacity needs of agricultural shippers, BNSF pioneered the grain shuttle model – trains entirely devoted to grain shipments, with a single origin and destination. The first grain shuttle facility opened in 1996. By 2000, there were 69 of them. Today, we have 383 grain shuttle facilities in the U.S. We’re proud that these shuttles play a vital role in helping American farmers feed our country and the world.” 

Currently, about 80 percent of BNSF grain volumes move on these shuttles. In addition to our U.S. facilities, we have added 38 destinations in Mexico. 

Looking to the future, Caddell added, “We will continue to invest in expansion projects that increase the fluidity of our network for agricultural products and other customers. Our recently completed Sandpoint Bridge project, for example, is increasing capacity for the current harvest season and beyond.” 

Learn more about the Sandpoint expansion project and our commitment to agricultural products shippers.

Expansion projects like the Sandpoint Bridge have a permanent impact on the network.
Expansion projects like the Sandpoint Bridge have a permanent impact on the network.

With one million units shipped in 2022, BNSF is by far the industry’s largest shipper of agricultural products. Consider this chart showing our growth in this sector versus the rest of the U.S. rail industry:

2013-2022 Agricultural Growth – Source AAR
2013-2022 Agricultural Growth – Source AAR

Industrial Products 

When we asked Colby Tanner, BNSF group vice president, Industrial Products, for an example of how BNSF has historically grown to better serve our shippers, he pointed to BNSF’s ever-expanding network of Certified Sites.  

“Since we established the BNSF Site Certification Program in 2015 the network has grown to 35 locations. These rail-served business parks, already vetted by BNSF, save customers valuable time when they’re ready to grow and open a new facility. Last year alone, we added three new BNSF Certified Sites, including another development in Kansas and two in Iowa.” 

The BNSF Site Certification Program identifies strategically located rail-served, privately owned industrial sites that are ready for immediate customer development.

BNSF’s roster of Certified Sites, now numbering 35.
BNSF’s roster of Certified Sites, now numbering 35.

As far as future growth goes, Tanner put the spotlight on BNSF Logistics Centers: “We’re significantly expanding our Logistics Centers network in the next couple years, expanding our industrial products customers’ reach to key markets, with new facilities set to open in Stockton, California, and North Houston area in Texas.” 

Logistics Centers are BNSF-owned industrial parks that offer direct rail service in under-served, attractive end-user markets, including Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Sweetwater, Texas; Fontana, California and Hudson, Colorado. 

Growing stronger together 

With continued investments in expanding our network, bolstering our workforce, enhancing our facilities and more, BNSF remains committed to growing our railway in ways that will help our customers succeed for years to come. Or, going back for the final word to BNSF EVP and CMO Steve Bobb:  

“BNSF growth is always about our customers’ growth.”

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